EI will host a conference in Beirut, from 6-8 June for its Arab country affiliates to assess their governments’ progress with the implementation of education for all. The conference, forms part of EI’s Unite for Quality Education campaign which aims to make education central to the post-2015 development goals.
UNESCO’s annual Education for All Global Monitoring Report paints a mixed picture of progress. Morocco, in particular, is performing poorly, with the average time spent in education standing at just eight years.
According to the UNESCO report, Morocco is among the 21 poorest performers along with Mauritania and other sub-Saharan African Arab countries. Egypt and Algeria are far ahead in terms of standards achieved in education and literacy.
Fewer than half of Moroccan pupils acquire basic skills, and less than 35 per cent get to fourth year in primary school having learned the basics. Adult literacy – up from 42 per cent in 1994 to 56 per cent in 2011 – is the lowest in the Arab world and one of the lowest rates globally, notes the Education For All report. Literacy among 15-24-year-olds is unchanged at 79 per cent, compared to 95 per cent or so in almost all Arab countries.
EI’s Moroccan affiliates attribute this failure to a number of reasons:
• Sharp rise in private education
The state supports the development of private schools through tax incentives. Morocco is creating a two-tier system: an under-funded, ill-equipped public system, and a private system that benefits the wealthy. Education is no longer doing its job of promoting upward social mobility. The UNESCO report cautions that the rich-poor education divide is one of the widest in the world, and that between equally-qualified job applicants, a private college graduate is more likely to be hired because employers are products of the same system.
• Rural schools neglected
Land use planning has focused on large urban areas and neglected rural areas where schools are in remote locations and lack facilities. Such schools are hard to get to, and lack fresh water, electricity, and heating. There are too few teachers, and textbooks are low-grade.
• Security, not empowerment
Education is traditionally security- rather than empowerment-oriented. During the years of political violence in Morocco, the political opposition was, as in many countries, spearheaded by the university intelligentsia. This created a mistrust of intellectuals within state government, and to this day, national education is controlled and managed to a security rather than learning agenda. This has been compounded over the years by the structural adjustment plans of financial institutions.
• No social dialogue on education
Finally, teaching unions complain of a lack of consultation while the Moroccan authorities tend to blame the failings of the education system on teachers, pupils, or parents.
EI has called on the Moroccan authorities to make national education a priority. “If it is to have quality education for all, the Moroccan government must involve teachers and education staff to completely rethink the education agenda aimed at improving the quality of education and the status of teachers,” said EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen.